When I think of summertime, I immediately think of certain things. Hot weather, ice tea, and catfish. What other fish fits the bill in the summer heat better than old “whisker lips”? To make the situation even better, most states have a very liberal daily creel limit on Catfish, allowing anglers to quickly and easily fill their freezer with some tasty fillets!
Let’s not get in a big debate about whether catching ‘Cats on rod and reel is the true feat compared to set lines. I say pick your passion and get after them! Recently I was able to get a free weekend and after consulting, John Trager, a local Catfishing guru, I immediately set a plan into action.
John, better known as Captain Catfish, is a legend in Kansas City fishing circles. In fact he helped popularize the fish in our urban areas, i.e. the Missouri and Kansas Rivers that flow through our city.
I needed just a bit of advice, and John’s opinion on the weekend moon phase was right on track. He mentioned that there would be a “dark” moon over the period I was considering and that often led to successful trips. Since I had an opportunity to sneak away from family issues, I loaded the boat and went out alone for some quiet time. There are hundreds of great Catfishing oppurtunities very close to most anglers. Any size impoundment, stream, river, or pond is bound to have an ample supply of ‘Cats. In fact I had this particular place to myself!
Oh, I nearly forgot to mention some of the prep work. First and foremost in a successful trip is bait. I learned from John that one of the keys to catching numbers and size of fish is good natural bait. Thus prior to heading out, I assembled my assitiant bait mate, and headed to my little perch hole. We have found that Berkley PowerBait Nibbles are perfect for catching sunfish. Nearly every real bait we have tried is stolen more times than naught, yet the PowerBait stays on the hook very well and catches tons of fish!
We simply use any ultra light rod setup, although an extenedable Crappie pole is optimum as it allows the angler to dip the bait into holes in moss and under trees. Be sure to check your local regulations on live bait and what is legal to use. I try to catch fifty or so sunfish and immediately put them into an aerated cooler. Of course Catfish can be caught on prepared baits, cut baits (Asian Carp are perfect) natural “stink” or attractant baits and many other creations. If I have to pick another bait besides sunfish, my second choice would be liver. While thousands of folks use chicken livers, I prefer beef liver. Beef has a tougher texture and stays on the hook better than chicken livers. Additionally I pre cut my beef livers into nuggets to save time on the water.
This trip I was going to utilize set lines, but prior to hitting the water I contacted my local game warden. I needed to clarify daily possession limit regulations. He explained that if I stayed on the water overnight that even though I would be fishing two days, in Missouri I could not legally have more than one day’s limit on my boat or in my truck. Thus if I wanted to catch a “possession limit” which is normally a two day total, I would have to go home on the first day and return with an empty creel. Once again its critical to check your local rules.
Therefore, once I got to the river I immediately began to locate my favorite spots. With knowledge I had picked up from John and other anglers, I expanded on my best spots, choosing two more places to fish. One of my new picks was a deep scour hole where the normal six foot deep channel dropped to twenty foot! It was here I placed my longest Trotline of six or seven hooks. I then eased downstream and set out a few more Trotlines and limb lines, but ensuring I never went over the maximum number of hooks allowed per person.
I count my rigs and place them in a bucket before heading out, so I know exactly how many rigs I have out and don’t unknowingly go over my limit. One trick I have found that makes labeling your lines easy is this… I take the address labels that come in the mail by the hundreds. I affix them to clear shipping tape so both sides are covered in tape. Then when I set a line I simply tape this semi-weatherproof name tag to my line and I am legal. Remember that it is illegal and unethical to place or leave lines unattended without name tags. Also when your trip is done you are required to completely remove all your gear!
I had high hopes for this trip. After an hour or so I was completed rigged up. All the lines were wet and ready for fish. I anxiously gulped down a sandwich and drink as the sun began to set. Still I was alone yet surprisingly close to home and thousands of people!
My first stop, netted a three pound Channel Cat, and the fun never ended! Nearly every stop had a fish on the line. In fact, my favorite spot, a little channel swing with stumps on it had a trio of Cats in a row. Its always fun to see the line jumping and not know what lays in wait under the surface!
The first evening, I quickly had my limit of Channel Catfish with one bonus Flathead! Since I had my limit and was growing weary of the bugs, I loaded my boat and headed home. Once there I emptied my livewell into a large trough of cold water and laid down for a few hours rest. At sunrise, I awoke, anxious to once more be back on the water!
Somehow, my hard work was paying off. I was fortunate to be on the water witnessing God’s creation and harvesting plenty of Catfish. Amazingly nearly every stop held fish! I quickly approached my limit and began to unhook and release small fish so I could continue to purse larger fish and enjoy the sunrise. At one of my new stops, I reached down and in the process of pulling up the main line, the line pulled back. Typically this is the trait of a heavy fish, so I listened to my experience and pulled on a heavy glove. Big fish can jerk the main line so hard that it cuts the skin on your hand like a knife. Having endured this previously, I was trying to learn from my mistakes! Although this fish was a good one, approximately a ten pound Channel, he wasn’t a monster but did put up a fight.
As I continued my journey from line to line, I was blessed with numerous three to five pound fish and for once no turtles or gar to contend with ! In short order I had my ten Channels but unfortunately no bonus Flatheads or Blue Cats. Thus at nine oclock I pulled all my lines and loaded the boat onto the trailer.
Of course on the ride home I had a couple phone calls to make. Upon arrival at home, the work was about to begin! I had two days limits to contend to and the sun was beginning to get high and hot! Still, I had the pleasure of a glorious night and day trip to reflect on as I slid the knife from once Catfish to the next. In short order I had a couple dozen bags in the freezer and the knowledge that one heck of a fish fry was in order.
The firm, white flesh of a Catfish may not be the most reverved fish in the water but never underestimate it. Nothing tops off a summer afternoon like some of the “other white meat” (Catfish) fired to golden perfection alongside some coleslaw, homegrown tomatoes and a cold beer. Now that’s what summer is all about!